Sunday, December 8, 2013

Choose what to write: Guest Post

Hey peeps! Here's a guest post by the wonderful Melinda Brasher! Please buy her books. She's fantastic.

You hear a lot about how you should "write what you know, write what you know."  I take issue with that.  I think you should write what you love.  Obviously, if you're going to write a thriller that takes place on a nuclear sub, and you don't know anything about nuclear subs, you have to do your research.  But if that's what you love, go ahead and do the research, write your story, and then bake some brownies to bribe a sailor into reading your manuscript for technical flaws.

I've never cast a spell or met a king or ridden a horse all night through the dark, yet I write about these things a lot.  That's the beauty of the human imagination.  So write what stirs you, what you can't sleep at night thinking about.  Write the kind of story you would like to read.

If you need inspiration, here are some strategies: 

-Watch people.  A writer I know has a T-shirt that says, "Be careful;  you might end up in my novel." 

-Listen to people's stories.  I once met a British brother and sister on a train in Europe.  They told me about how their train had broken down once in the middle of a snowstorm.  A couple of years later, when I decided I wanted to try to write a short story for a local contest, I remembered them, and wove a story around it, straying wildly from what really happened, peopling it with my own characters with their own motivations and back stories.  I won the contest. 

-Look for story prompts or interesting pictures to start you off.  The internet is full of them.  Search for "creative writing prompts" or "story prompts" or use Writer's Digest's Some magazines base entire issues around certain ideas or even first lines.  Here are a couple I have fun with:  THEMA Literary Journal, The First Line.

-Check out NaNoWriMo's "dares."  In the genre lounges of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) forums, look for threads like "Fantasy Dares" where people dare you to write a story with a certain character or premise.  An example:  "Have a non-rebellious princess who WANTS to go through with the politically-important arranged marriage."  A lot of these dares give you extra points for including other twists or details:  "Your princess really likes her princessing lessons."  Some are silly, but others are fantastic ideas, many of which turn clich├ęs on their heads.   

-Read fiction.  I get inspiration from little things in books—a minor character, a comment, a bit of politics.  I look at a fantasy world and think, "but what if it were this way?"  "What if a character did this instead?"  Just be careful not to borrow too much.  Take a little thread of something you read and twist it into your own unique tale.

-Read non fiction.  I once read a book about strange animal habits and abilities and anatomy, and it gave me so many ideas for science fiction aliens that I had to keep stopping to take notes. 

-Go out and gather experiences.  Try new things.  Meet new people.  Travel.  It's research for future ideas. 

-Write, write, write, write.  The more you write, the more things you'll think of to write.  If you're completely blank, just start writing something.  Anything.  You'll probably have to throw away a few pages of garbage, but soon something will form out of the chaos.

No matter where you get your inspiration, the most important thing is to write.  The best idea is nothing until you put pen to paper. 


Melinda Brasher is the author of Far-Knowing, a YA fantasy about two young mage apprentices—one the hard-working and blindly loyal daughter of the High Commander, the other a baker's daughter with undisciplined power bubbling cheerfully inside her.  Their task is simple:  track down a man no one has ever been able to find, convince the ruthless and powerful mage that they're no threat, and capture him without becoming the next in his long string of victims.  Simple. 

She has also published Leaving Home, a collection of short stories, flash fiction, and travel essays.  Her writing appears in Ellipsis Literature and Art, Enchanted Conversation, Go Nomad, and International Living, among others. 

Melinda Brasher has lived in Poland, Mexico, and the Czech Republic, teaching English as a second language and traveling every chance she gets.  She loves hikes, season changes, games that require more skill than luck, grammar debates, and shelves stuffed with books.  Connect with her online at

1 comment:

Melinda Brasher said...

Thanks so much for hosting me. If anyone has any questions, I'd be happy to answer them.

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